Considering buying a new RV? There are tons of factors that go into a big decision like that, so we’ll walk you through everything you should be considering.
Who You’re Riding With
Before you start looking for a new RV, you should first decide on the type of RV that will work best for your needs. Living in an RV full-time can be a miserable experience if you are in a model that doesn’t match your physical, and in some cases, even emotional requirements. For example, if you’re traveling as a couple you’ll soon realize that finding some personal space can be a challenge in an RV, and the smaller the unit the greater the challenge. If you and your partner have an occasional disagreement and you need some time to reflect alone, then you may want to consider purchasing a unit that can give you some extra space to fulfill those emotional needs.
Your physical requirements are another important aspect you should address. I once met a couple out west that were traveling in a nice motorhome and one night while we were enjoying some cocktails by a campfire, the husband confided in me that if he had it to do over, he would have purchased another motorhome and when I asked why he replied, “Because the shower is too small for me.” This gentleman wasn’t particularly tall, maybe six feet at best, but he discovered that because the shower basin was elevated six inches above the bathroom floor that when he climbed into the shower, the only place he could stand fully upright was directly under the air vent with the top inch or so of his noggin actually in the vent! He also had to stoop down under the showerhead making it quite uncomfortable for him to bathe. So basically, he didn’t take the time to climb into the shower when they were shopping for an RV and now he is paying for that mistake down the road, literally.
Type of RVs You Can Buy
Take a look at my recent guide on the differences between the various classes of RVs and which one is best for different types of people.
Consider Renting Before Buying
If you’re new to RVing or don’t have much experience, then you should probably consider renting an RV for a week or two and take it some place to get the feel of how it drives and how you feel living in it. I once had a conversation with a lady who did just that and she discovered that the model she purchased wasn’t a good fit for her. Why? Because all of the closets in the trailer she rented were too short for her to hang her cloth in without getting wrinkled. So you see, even something as simple as a wrinkled shirt was reason enough for her to not purchase that model of trailer, and it’s probably not something she would have even thought of when shopping at a dealership. You can use a service like RVShare or Outdoorsy to find a good rental.
Best Time of Year to Buy an RV
The first thing you should do is understand the best time of year to purchase an RV. Spring and early summer is the most popular time for shopping for a new RV and you are better off waiting until fall or even winter when sales are slower and dealerships are eager to make sales.
Have you ever noticed that RV shows are almost always held in January and February? That’s because just like boat or home and garden shows, they are luring the consumer out on a cold and dreary winter day to get you thinking about what you want to do when warmer weather arrives.
Are RV Shows a Good Place to Purchase an RV?
They can be, but I would advise against doing that. RV shows are a good place to see a lot of models from various manufacturers and dealerships which allow you to compare floor plans and pricing, but remember these shows are also aimed at luring in the impulse buyer that will make a purchase without doing as much research as they probably should before they buy. You would be wise to just take notes and use the time to comparison shop. These shows are also not exclusively about RV models and types, they will also feature manufacturers of parts and accessories such as a better step system or a new type of bicycle rack for the rear of your unit. So while you may be tempted to make a purchase at an RV show, I personally wouldn’t do that. Instead I would consider traveling to purchase my new RV.
What Do You Mean by Traveling?
Many RV dealers are located in northern Indiana and throughout the south. As such, you are likely to find more dealerships in areas closer to manufacturers. With that in mind, the more dealers in a certain location, the more competitive the pricing on RVs will be. Also, you will find the delivery costs will be cheaper the closer the dealership is to the manufacturer. Unlike automobiles where a car-hauler can carry up to 10 vehicles at a time, RVs are much larger and less of them can be delivered at one time, which can drive up the delivery cost to as much as $2 a mile!
Bottom line: don’t pay for delivery costs if you can help it.
What Should I Look for at the Dealership?
Quite often, a salesperson will listen to what you what and then take you to a high end unit first as a teaser. That’s usually followed up by showing you a lower end model that is smaller and not what you want at all. This is a psychological tactic because the third unit has the features (and usually more) than you are wanting and they know that the buyer will quickly wear down and become overwhelmed by the different models, floor plans, and pricing. When they finally steer you toward what you were looking for in the first place, they can be seen as the person that saved the day. Don’t let this tactic influence you and don’t let it waste your time! Be firm and stick to your guns.
Another tactic commonly used is refusal to maintenance your RV if you don’t purchase it from them. Local dealerships will do this to steer you away from making purchases elsewhere and to me that is a form of extortion. I would leave immediately if they pulled this on me and you should too.
Consider comparison shopping at several dealerships and get quotes for the RVs that have similar features. Armed with these quotes from competitors you are more likely to get a better price on the unit you really want to purchase because this salesperson will realize that they are dealing with someone that has done their homework, knows what they want, and more importantly, what they are going to pay for an RV.
What Should I Look For in My Purchase?
Do a Complete Walk Through
You need to do a complete walk through of the RV you want to purchase and inspect everything. Buying a new RV is much like purchasing a used RV, and in the second part of this series, I will share some tips on the technical and mechanical things you should consider before making a purchase.
One important thing to negotiate when purchasing a new trailer or 5th wheel is better tires. Quite often the manufacturer will use tires rated for exactly the weight the model has when it was delivered to the dealership and let’s face it, things like clothes, dishes, food, outdoor furniture, kayak racks, bike racks, and bikes add a lot of extra weight that puts more stress on cheap tires. A blown out tire at 60 miles per hour is a harrowing enough experience without the added cost of the damage all that flying rubber does to the undercarriage of your new coach.
Another important thing to consider when you are in the negotiation process is to ask for a gift card to their parts and accessory store as part of the contract. Usually things like your sewer line, a four way lug wrench, or electrical supply adapters are not included with the purchase of a new RV, and this is a good way to avoid having to purchase those items elsewhere or out of your pocket.
You can also use this tactic to negotiate small upgrades. You’re not happy with a plastic toilet and you want a porcelain one instead? You don’t care for the plastic kitchen sink faucet with the faux chrome finish and you want a more modern steel faucet like you would have in your own home? Don’t worry, dealers are usually ready to do this because they want the sale as much (or more) than you want the purchase.
Don’t Think of This as an “Investment”
And finally, please remember that this is not an investment you are making. Too often I hear people referring to buying an RV as a “huge investment” and I literally cringe when I hear that. Investments should earn you money and RVs don’t do that. With every added mile or year older your RV gets, it will lose value. Therefore, it’s in your best interest to negotiate the best add-ons and accessories that will help to maintain a higher re-sale value if you decide to upgrade to another model more suitable in the future.
In the second part of this series, we will look at whether buying a used RV is a better option for your needs and some of the mechanical inspections you should consider when buying a new or used RV. In the meantime, see you down the road and safe travels to you!
For more specific recommendations on the right rig to purchase, be sure to read our guide on the best RVs for full-timers.